Mashpee Town Manager Rodney C. Collins presented a $2,576,000 capital improvement budget to a joint meeting of the Mashpee Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee on Monday, February 8.
The budget, which includes various vehicle replacements, a new Mashpee Department of Natural Resources facility and other infrastructure upgrades, will be voted on at Town Meeting in the spring. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a date or venue for Town Meeting has yet to be confirmed.
The Mashpee Capital Improvement Program Committee has unanimously approved the recommended capital improvement budget, Mr. Collins said. Neither the selectmen nor the finance committee recommended specific changes to the budget during the virtual meeting on Monday.
At $850,000, the new department of natural resources facility is the most expensive line item in the capital improvement budget. Mr. Collins said the town plans to purchase two commercial bays on Mercantile Way for use as a natural resources facility rather than construct a new $4.4 million facility on Red Brook Road, as had previously been suggested.
“I'm excited about this alternative compared to essentially creating a site down at Red Brook Road and having a brand-new building,” Mr. Collins said. “We have to be realistic especially in these challenging times, so having a place that is functional and is going to get the job done and is brand-new and a heck of a lot less costly makes a lot more sense.”
The capital improvement budget also includes $43,000 for the purchase of new boats for the town’s shellfish operation and $158,000 for the purchase of a new harbormaster boat.
Selectman Thomas O’Hara asked about the cost of the harbormaster boat.
“It’s just a number I find staggering, the harbormaster boat,” Mr. O’Hara said.
Mr. Collins said that last year the director of natural resources, Ashley Fisher, undertook a comprehensive review to look at the condition of the department’s boats and their safety.
“We had a couple of situations that quite frankly created a hazardous and unsafe condition,” Mr. Collins said. “To put it bluntly, this is catchup time. I think the long-term planning for replacing capital in natural resources—and I'm not trying to be critical of anyone in particular, I'm just saying—I don't think it was adequate.”
Selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb explained the harbormaster boat is a boat with an aluminum hull that is designed to allow the harbormaster to haul out and place navigational aids and moorings safely and efficiently.
“Instead of having this Rube Goldberg workboat with a poorly attached winch and the like, we’re actually equipping them with something that puts them in a position where they can pick up those navigational aids and moorings and move them where they need to be moved without risking anybody's safety,” Mr. Gottlieb said, adding, “but it’s an expensive boat.”
For the Mashpee Department of Public Works, the capital improvement budget recommends $256,000 to purchase four replacement vehicles, including three trucks and a chipper. For the Mashpee Fire Rescue Department, a total of $120,000 is recommended for the purchase of two vehicles. For the Mashpee Police Department, the budget recommends $224,400 to lease a total of 14 police vehicles.
In response to a question from finance committee member John Miller, Mr. Collins explained that there is some internal discussion among town staff over whether it is better to buy or to lease vehicles.
“The idea is the trucks have historically lasted longer than three years, whereas the patrol vehicles in the police department need to be replaced after three years,” Mr. Collins said, explaining why the police department leases vehicles while other departments may purchase vehicles.
For the Mashpee Public Schools, the capital improvement budget recommends $211,000 including $25,000 for food service equipment upgrades, $45,000 for Chromebook leases, $25,000 for interactive board systems in classrooms, $56,000 for replacement of teacher computers, $30,000 for wireless upgrades and $30,000 for the installation of three flagpoles at each of the schools.
For the Mashpee Information Technology Department, the capital improvement budget recommends a total of $109,448, including $25,564 for phone system upgrades, $50,000 for a network switch at town hall and $33,884 for Microsoft Office licenses.
Mr. Collins said the $30,000 wireless upgrades at the schools and the $50,000 network switch at town hall are expected to be covered by Mashpee Cable Advance Technology Committee funds rather than capital stabilization funds.
For planning and construction, the capital improvement budget recommends a total of $1,534,198. That includes the $850,000 department of natural resources facility; $350,000 for resurfacing of the Mashpee Middle-High School parking lots; $119,198 for the purchase of solar panel systems for roofs of the high school, department of public works buildings and senior center; $90,000 for school security upgrades; $75,000 for air conditioner installation at Quashnet Elementary School; and $50,000 for flooring replacements.